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Politicians spar over stimulus

A year after passing stimulus, Republicans, Democrats split on success or failure of spending

Posted: February 17, 2010 10:08 p.m.
Updated: February 18, 2010 4:55 a.m.

From left to right, Don Cruikshank, co-owner of AV Equipment Rentals, Inc., Congressman Howard "Buck" McKeon, and Councilwoman Laurie Ender speak regarding the stimulus bill's one-year anniversary on Wednesday afternoon.

 
A year after the federal government set aside $868 billion to stimulate the economy, Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, joined other Republicans Wednesday claiming the stimulus bill hasn’t done what it was supposed to. Meanwhile, President Obama and Democrats said the stimulus has prevented a second Great Depression.

But having to sift through the political rhetoric on both sides makes it hard to figure what the stimulus has actually accomplished, a prominent local economist said.

McKeon and Santa Clarita City Councilwoman Laurie Ender held a news conference Wednesday at a construction business in Newhall that has struggled over the last year.

McKeon said the stimulus bill has been a bust, and since it was passed a year ago, the United States has lost more than 2 million jobs, citing figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. He added that while the stimulus funds did save education and government jobs past year, there is no guarantee those jobs would be safe in the future.

“This is one-time money,” McKeon said. “In reality, (the stimulus) just delayed the inevitable.”

The White House’s federal stimulus Web site, which tracks how stimulus money has been spent, paints a very different picture. It says the stimulus has either created or retained 595,000 jobs nationally, including 3,120 in Los Angeles County through Feb. 10.

The city of Santa Clarita has already spent millions of stimulus dollars, and should get millions more in the future.

City officials have spent almost $3.5 million in stimulus funds through December 2009. The money saved 25 full-time jobs last year, Ender said.

However, that isn’t enough to see a real impact on the local economy, she said.

And while the city has been allocated $17 million in stimulus funds, the money is not made immediately available, which hurts local business, Ender said.

“Waiting on the money doesn’t help our long-term projects any,” Ender said. “It’s very limited in what you can spend the (stimulus) money on.”

Jack Kyser, founding economist of the Kyser Center for Economic Research in Los Angeles, said it’s difficult to figure out whether the federal stimulus has created jobs or improved the economy.

“It’s going to be very, very difficult to figure.” Kyser said. “It’s politics. Democrats are saying this stimulus is good, the Republicans turn up their nose.”

Kyser said most of the jobs and projects the stimulus funds are in the public sector. More money needs to be spent to ensure small businesses have access to bank loans and credit, he said.

“If you talk to small- and medium-size businesses, they are still struggling,” Kyser said. “They can’t get a loan from a bank.”

Don Cruikshank, co-owner of AV Equipment Rentals said getting a loan has been extremely tough and during the last two years, he’s had to lay off almost half his employees.

Meanwhile, organizations that have already received stimulus funds have seen benefits.

The Santa Clarita Valley Committee on Aging has received $331,000 in stimulus funds, said Executive Director Brad Berens. Half was spent on their programs to give seniors hot meals, the other was to help repair homes in unincorporated areas of the Santa Clarita Valley.

“Typically, we have so much need in the Santa Clarita Valley that we run out of federal funds for those programs in April or May,” Berens said.

“For the first year, with the stimulus funds, we have been able to provide for people with needs without running out.”

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